Massachusetts Democratic State Rep Explains Opposition To Driver’s Licenses For Illegal Immigrants

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Should illegal immigrants be eligible for driver’s licenses in Massachusetts?

Republicans in the state legislature are against it. But so are a small number of Democrats.

State Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) is among the elected officials in Massachusetts playing a role in trying to get voters to repeal the new law that would allow driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants next year.

The left-leaning Massachusetts Legislature passed H.4805 in June 2022, and enacted it by overriding Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of the bill. The bill provides illegal immigrants the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license in the Commonwealth starting in July 2023. It passed 119-36 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and 32-8 in the Massachusetts Senate. Thirteen Democrats in the state legislature opposed the bill:  eight in the House and five in the Senate.

One of those No votes came from Garry. She was one of the 10 people who signed onto the initial petition sent to the state Attorney General’s office requesting approval for supporters to proceed with a ballot question to flip the legislature’s action.

So what problem does she see it?

She told NewBostonPost that the law has problems that go beyond allowing illegal immigrants to drive, including creating confusion over who is a citizen of the country and who isn’t.

“I have very strong concerns about illegal immigrants being able to obtain a driver’s license that has no demarcation on it that they are not American citizens, not being able to register to vote at the RMV, but then walking into a city or town clerk with the driver’s license as identification and being able to register to vote,” Garry wrote in an email message to NewBostonPost. “The Clerk is not allowed to call the RMV to verify that the individual is an American citizen. Other states who have driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants have wording such as ‘for driving privilege only’ or some other identification that it can’t be used to register to vote.”

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, according to The Hill. However, as Garry points out, they typically don’t look like a regular driver’s license. 

For example, the Connecticut license states “for driving purposes only”; the Delaware license says “Driving Privilege Only”; the Hawaii license says “This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits”; and the Utah card says ‘FOR DRIVING PRIVILEGES ONLY — NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION”, as the Center for Immigration Studies points out.

Supporters of the new driver’s-license law in Massachusetts say illegal immigrants deserve licenses to be able to drive to work legally and that it would cut down on hit-and-run accidents, among others. Opponents say offering driver’s licenses provides incentive for illegal immigrants to come to Massachusetts and stay here, and that it may make it harder to prove that they aren’t citizens of the United States.

In Massachusetts, the proposed ballot question to repeal the new driver’s-license law is what’s known as a referendum petition. 

The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office states:  “A referendum petition is a way for people to propose repealing a law enacted by the Legislature and [is] voted on in statewide general elections. Referendum petitions to repeal a law are filed with the Secretary of State’s Office 30 days after the law is enacted.”

For the question to make it onto the statewide ballot, supporters will need to collect 40,120 certified signatures of registered voters by August 24, 2022. Milford Republican state committeewoman Maureen Maloney previously told NewBostonPost that to be safe, supporters are aiming to obtain 60,000 signatures.

A recent UMass Amherst poll found that 46 percent of Bay Staters oppose giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants while 40 percent support the idea.

For more information on the initiative, go to


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